Monday, July 9, 2018


This past weekend I was walking down the short three block long business district towards the beach. Walking in the opposite direction was a kid, looking like he was in his mid-teens. He was walking down the street holding a record album with both hands, reading the liner notes with a big shit eating grin on his face. I was so enamored with the look of a kid that age being that excited by an album cover, I didn't even notice what record he was looking at. I just looked at his face and imagined what lay before him, because many years ago, I was that kid, on that very same sidewalk, doing that exact same thing. Checking out the liner notes of a just purchased record. Back then the record store was Soundsville, and it was just two doors down from the current record store, the curiously named Cow. I flashed back to all of the excitement of the trek home to listen to a new record for the first time. I thought about all of the record stores I've been in, all the counter guys whose wisdom I soaked up, all the discoveries and chances taken merely on the merit of a cool album cover. I was hoping that kid's smile would reappear, week after week for decades as mine has.

I just found out that on the very same day I saw that kid, San Diego lost one of the longest running and most knowledgeable counter guys that has ever worked in a local record store. His name was Lou Curtiss, and he may not be well known outside of his hometown but believe me, music freaks here knew him, particularly those who are into roots music. He ran his own record store, Folk Arts, for 47 years (he sold it in, I think, 2014). His specialty was the old shit. Old timey, early blues, early jazz, folk and so on, with 78s as far back as 1892. As a local musician put it on Facebook today, "Who else would have a whole section in their store of rare 78’s labeled ‘Honking Sax’" And he had a radio show, Jazz Roots, on the local jazz station. And he wrote for the local roots music tabloid, Troubadour, and he put on folk festivals, and later roots festivals. Dude knew his shit.

Curtiss was an early supporter of Tom Waits, before he was signed and after. That top photo above is Waits hanging outside Folk Arts in 1974, taken by Curtiss's wife Virginia. So that's the tie in with the link below to a 1976 Waits show. There's also a link to Honey Where You Been So Long, an unrelated but similar in theme old timey blues site, and a link to Folk Arts' partial library of late sixties folk festivals Curtiss was involved in. Because Curtiss has been described as a curmudgeon, and just for good measure, a totally unrelated interview with 78 collector Joe Bussard, an opinionated sourpuss with an insane record collection.


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